About this project
Handheld Gaming Is Awesome
We live in a technological era where it is possible to place powerful gaming hardware that exceeds yesterday’s PCs in the palm of your hand. Tablets and smart phones are just one example of this. Their touch screens have already revolutionized casual, portable gaming. However, many gamers would agree that they are in their true natural habitat when in direct control of that experience with physical buttons and a real d-pad or authentic analog control. The world just needed these two ideas combined into one package for the gaming community.
We are developing the GCW Zero, a handheld console built around the Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor. It is powerful enough to run classic PC games, emulate the game consoles we grew up with and run homebrew games seamlessly at high frame rates.
Open Source Software Is Awesome
We here at Game Consoles Worldwide believe that a company should not just capitalize and consumers should be allowed to do more than consume. Too many devices today are walled gardens, designed solely for consumption. Not ours! The GCW Zero gives you full control of your handheld. Install any application you want to run, change the operating system in any way you want. We won't fight you; in fact we'll encourage you.
Because the Zero runs Linux, a huge library of excellent, free, open source software can run on it. Our core development team is hard at work porting popular applications to provide a strong launch day lineup and we're sure many more will follow from us and from our community.
Developers Are Awesome
We are committed to working with the open source and homebrew communities. Have an idea for the Zero? We want to help. Port your favorite game, or write your own homebrew title! How about media software? Streaming? Turn it into a server? Your ideas and creativity excite us and we want to help develop the Zero into a full-spectrum device.
The Zero's operating system is OpenDingux, a Linux distribution which is designed to be developer friendly with SSH login, SFTP file transfer and a debugger with profiling tools already included. Both the distribution and the SDK are kept up-to-date; for example we are currently using Linux 3.7 and GCC 4.7.2.
Why We Need YouAs you can see in the video, the Zero is ready to start full production. By ourselves we can only finance small batches, but with your help we can get a lot of devices produced in a short time, giving the Zero a flying start.
When our project was formally announced and a prototype demonstrated, we made an initial offering of 100 preorders to our earliest supporters by word-of-mouth. After reaching that goal we were compelled to increase the figure to 150 due to popular demand. Our supporters proved that this is not just a device we thought the gaming community might want; it is a device they demand. The first 40 of these units have already started to be shipped, while the rest are in the process of inspection at the factory, before they can be shipped to meet their new owners.
We need your help for the next steps. If there is a large user base, it is easier to convince both hobby and indie developers to make software for the Zero. We have pending contracts in place for suppliers and the manufacturing of all the resources/tools to produce the console. Once funding has occurred we can go into full production and bring this product to the world.
The operating system is still in development and the essentials are already working, but we want to unlock the full potential of the hardware. We'd like to port more applications and adapt them to work well with the Zero's controls and fine tune them to run as smoothly as possible. With your backing, we can send consoles to developers so they can test their software on the Zero. We can also compensate a few key developers so they can spend more time on improving the Zero's software.
We want to create a repository, similar to an App Market, where users can download free, open source software and also buy closed-source/indie software from developers. We would like to have classic games in this repository as well: for games that have an open source engine and proprietary data, we would like to make it simple for users to buy and install the data files. A successful KickStarter project could help attract attention of proprietary data rights holders. This would allow us to host or provide it along with the game engine. All games/applications submitted to the App Market will be reviewed for copyright compliance.
Finally, a powerful device like the Zero can only flex its muscles when other ingenious minds have the resources to power their ambitions. To help others create great products for gamers like us, we will participate in the Kicking-it-forward initiative and invest 5% of our profits in indie and open source gaming projects. The Zero is a console made for gamers, by gamers. As a company, we are never satisfied when there are innovative ideas for the Zero that have not been explored.
Meet the Team
Justin Barwick (gcwnow) was a retailer of the now famous Dingoo A320, GPH Caanoo, and Gemei A330 consoles. His contact with the communities around these handhelds gave him a good insight into what the customers wanted. He tried to get the manufacturers to engage with the community to improve their devices, but they didn't and kept producing handhelds that were not quite what the users were looking for. So Justin decided to do things differently and started with the GCW Zero, where the community was involved from the start in designing the device and building the software for it.
Kirk Shepherd (qbertaddict) is the lead tester of the hardware and software for GCW. He promotes the device via YouTube and other internet resources. He is also a tech lead of the QA process for the GCW Zero. He is a core member of the team and without him we would not be where we are today. HisYouTube channel contains many promotional/demonstration videos of the Zero.
Maarten ter Huurne (mth) is a freelance software engineer who started programming on the 8-bit MSX and never really left the system, as he's now one of the developers of the openMSX emulator. He's been a Linux user for over a decade, but only became a kernel hacker a couple of years ago when starting OpenDingux for the Dingoo A320. Maarten works on the operating system and toolchain for the Zero.
Paul Cercueil (ayla) is a student of embedded systems and is learning more about them by actually building them than by lectures. Paul is the other main developer of OpenDingux and wants to bring this work to a broader audience with the Zero. When it comes to retro gaming and homebrew, he is a big fan of the Dreamcast.
Steven J. Hill (sjhill) is an embedded systems engineer who has worked on both civilian and military software using Linux and RTOS platforms. Steven is currently employed by MIPS Technologies, Inc. and is a Senior Staff engineer responsible for their contributions to the Linux kernel. He was immediately attracted to the Zero when he learned it is powered by a MIPS core.
Artur Rojek (zear) has ported dozens of games to many open source handhelds, including the Caanoo and the Dingoo. He continues this trend on the Zero to ensure there are enough quality games to keep you entertained. In addition to porting other people's games, he's working on a game of his own as well; you can see some footage of it in our Kickstarter promo video.
Dmitry Smagin (dsmagin) is a retro-game enthusiast who has ported and optimized many emulators for the Dingoo A320 and the Ritmix RZX-50. He is doing the same for the GCW Zero to get the best possible experience when playing classic games. Other retro projects he was involved in include a remake of The Last Mission and an SDL port of Adlib Tracker 2.
Jean-Michel Girard (alekmaul) is a homebrew veteran who started on the Game Boy Color, then moved on to other systems such as the Game Boy Advance, SNES, DS, Dingoo and now the Zero. In addition to designing his own games he ports games and emulators.
João Henrique (JohnnyonFlame) is Passionate about open-source initiatives and gaming, Johnny eventually took porting and polishing software for hand-held consoles as a hobby and a chance of acquiring more knowledge on GNU/Linux and programming.
This is just a selection of the people who currently develop for the Zero; we don't have space to list all contributors here. Also regularly new developers join, so this is by no means the final list.
CPU: Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor
GPU: Vivante GC860, capable of OpenGL ES 2.0
Display: 3.5 inch LCD with 320x240 pixels; 4:3 aspect ratio is ideal for retro gaming
Memory: 512 MB DDR2
Internal storage: 16 GB, most of which is available for applications and data
External storage: micro SDHC up to 32 GB or micro SDXC up to 64 GB (SDXC cards must be reformatted before use)
Mini USB 2.0 OTG
Mini HDMI 1.3 out
3.5 mm (mini jack) A/V port for earphone and analog TV-out
Stereo speakers, mono microphone
Accelerometer (g-sensor) and vibration motors
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz, can connect to access point or direct device-to-device
Dimensions: 143 * 70 * 18 mm
Weight: 8 oz / 225 g
Battery: 2800 mAh
Risks and challenges
The operating system on the Zero is still under development. The essentials are all working today: the buttons, d-pad and analog stick, 2D graphics, audio, SD card, networking via USB.
Other things need tweaking, as USB host mode (to be able to connect USB peripherals), TV-out (analog and HDMI) and vibration are still being worked on.
We will bring you regular firmware updates, so early adopters can expect more and more functionality with each new release.
Another thing that we are still working on is the OpenGL driver. Unfortunately, we will not be able to release this as open source. People who only want a fully open source system can simply leave out the OpenGL driver though; the 2D graphics system (Linux framebuffer) works fine without it.
The Wi-Fi module itself uses binary firmware, but the driver that runs on the MIPS CPU is open source. Every other driver we are using is fully open source and that source will be published on github as soon as the first unit’s ship.
The userland (libraries and applications) is fully open source and its source is already available, as well as the tools for creating and flashing firmware images.
Our toolchain currently runs on Linux only. We want to release a virtual machine image with the toolchain pre-installed so developers on other operating systems can easily develop for the GCW Zero as well.
We are also dependent on the factory being able to provide enough units. They are very experienced at making consumer electronics, but manufacturing glitches can and do happen which could delay delivery.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Yes. Two games presented in the video are not open-source. Sqrxz3 is a closed-source freeware title, while Unnamed Monkey Game (UMG) is a commercial closed-source game. Other games featured in the video might require commercial data files (ie. Duke Nukem 3D), but the game engine to them is open-source
We have about 30 consoles out with developers and early adopters. The average battery life they report is 7 to 10 hours according to what you are running on the console.
Yes, we will send out a survey after the KickStarter is over and we are successful. It will verify your shipping address and color preference before we ship the console.
If the project doesn't meet it's goal, does that mean the people who pledged aren't going to get a GCW-Zero?
If we fail to reach our funding goal no money will ever be raised and your pledge will be returned to you by Kick Starter. At that point we will regroup redesign the site and information. Try get more awareness out there about us and our goal and retry again here on Kick Starter.
But I think we will succeed with everyone in the open source community behind us like you and so many others who want a truly open source gaming console.
Mini-USB allows you to plug extra peripherals much better than
micro-USB. With micro-USB, we were afraid that the port would not
survive a heavy weight attached to it.
GCW Zero was designed so you can attach extra peripherals such as game
controllers or keyboard/mouse combo of your choice and use them
together with HDMI/analog video out.
Here is an example in this link with a USB Bluetooth dongle:
If the microSD card breaks it can be always replaced. It also allows
for easy upgrade to a bigger storage capacity or faster microSD card.
We wanted it easy for users to upgrade the internal storage and give
the console a longer life span. For example if the NAND failed you
would need to replace the console's NAND chips, which could be costly.
If the microSD card breaks it can be always replaced. It also allows
for easy upgrade to a bigger storage capacity or faster microSD card.
A bigger screen on the GCW Zero = less battery life / more work on the
CPU / less fps in emulation / blurry, rescaled graphics and a higher
The reason behind choosing a 320x240 display isn't just monetary. Of
course, a larger display would have raised the final price of the
device, but it also has many other cons for a device aimed at retro
gaming. First of all, a higher resolution is not needed because most
retro games we support run at 320x240 at most. A larger screen would
require everything to be rescaled, so the CPU would have an extra load
of work and this would result in worse gaming performance and less
There is no real theoretical limit (think of a couple of hundred units). The hardware however, has a bandwidth limitation which will result in lag and disconnects when too many units are connected to a GCW Zero hosting a multiplayer game.
Controls are currently changed via settings files or via in game/application menus depending on the game/application.
Any customs or handling fees are the responsibility of the backer/buyer when the items enter destination country. Items will leave the US through the US Postal Service to avoid costly brokerage fees associated with other carriers.
Can the GCW’s battery be charged via USB? Or will there be a power adapter supplied? If so: Will it also work in Europe?
The unit can be charged via PC or with the help of USB wall adapter but it will take a considerable amount of time to charge the device. A power adapter specific for your country/region will be included with the console.
Currently we are working on implementing USB OTG: the hardware supports it and support for it will be added in a future OS update.
Yes, this is possible when we add BT support to the OS in a future update.
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